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Stocks Extend Rally as Russell 2000 Reaches All-Time High

Friday, 26 December 2014 04:34 PM

The Russell 2000 Index climbed to an all- time high and the Nasdaq Composite Index reached a level unseen since 2000 as an equities rally that started last week continued through one of the slowest trading days of the year.

The Russell 2000 of small-cap companies gained 0.7 percent to a record 1,215.19 at 4 p.m. in New York. The Nasdaq Composite jumped 0.7 percent to the highest level since March 2000, as biotechnology companies rebounded a second day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.3 percent to 2,088.78. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 23.76 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,053.97. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 52 percent below the 30-day average for this time of the day.

U.S. markets were closed yesterday for Christmas. Most major markets around the globe are shut today.

“We’ve had quite a run here,” Eric Cinnamond, who manages the $691 million Aston/River Road Independent Value Fund, said by phone from Louisville, Kentucky. “The consensus has been that the domestic economy is improving and small-caps are more exposed to that than large-cap multinational companies. Managers are making sure they’re owning what’s working and the herd mentality is at extremes right now.”

The Russell 2000 and Nasdaq Composite have shown resilience this year. The Russell recovered from a correction that saw it slip 11 percent over a five-week period starting in early September. The index has surged 16 percent since reaching a one- year low on Oct. 13.

Bouncing Back

The Nasdaq Composite closed below 4,000 twice this year, on Feb. 3 and April 11. It has rallied 20 percent to the highest since March 29, 2000. The gauge is now about 5 percent below its all-time closing high of 5,048.62, set on March 10, 2000. The Nasdaq 100 Index, which jumped 0.9 percent today, is about 20 points away from reaching a 14-year high.

Even with its 4.4 percent gain in 2014, the Russell still trails the S&P 500 and Dow, growing at less than half the pace.

Both the S&P 500 and the Dow are at records this week after posting their biggest rally in three years. The recent gains are taking the Dow up 1.3 percent for the month and 9 percent this year. The gauge has advanced for seven straight days, the longest streak since March 2013. The S&P 500 has risen 1.1 percent in December and 13 percent for the year.

“Momentum has been building in the last month for small- cap names,” Michael James, a Los Angeles-based managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities Inc., said by phone. ‘It’s merely playing catch up. Given that the Russell has lagged through this year, people are trying to find beta for performance.’’

Valuation Concern

It hasn’t been a smooth year for small-cap stocks. The Russell 2000 lost 2.8 percent over a three-day period starting July 15 after the Federal Reserve expressed concern about valuations among social-media and biotech companies.

“Valuation metrics in some sectors do appear substantially stretched -- particularly those for smaller firms in the social- media and biotechnology industries,” the central bank wrote in assessing the U.S. stock market.

The Fed’s concern came after small-caps and Internet shares were the biggest victims of a market retreat early in the year as investors dumped the best performers of the bull market.

Small-cap shares also fell faster than the broader market during an August selloff sparked by concern that a selloff in oil prices and slowing growth in China and Europe would hurt the U.S. economy.

The Russell 2000 will trail the benchmark index in 2015, Bank of America Corp. analysts wrote in a note to clients earlier this month. Small-cap companies remain expensive and will appreciate less than larger ones as interest rates increase, the analysts led by Jill Carey Hall said.

Oil Slump

The slump in oil prices threatened the stock rally earlier this month, with the S&P 500 closing at a seven-week low on Dec. 16. The index recouped its losses faster than in comparable drops earlier this year as the Fed said it will be patient on the timing of interest-rate increases and the U.S. economy expanded at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

Since the bull market began in 2009, the Dow has risen 176 percent, propelled by better-than-estimated corporate results and three rounds of Fed bond buying. The S&P 500 has more than tripled during that period. Even with slumps in 2014 risking to derail a bull market in its sixth year, the Dow’s worst retreat was only about 7 percent, and the gauge recovered from each drop in two months.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange S&P 500 Volatility Index, the gauge of S&P 500 swings known as the VIX, slumped 39 percent in the past six trading days, its biggest plunge since January 2013. The index rose 3.2 percent today for the first increase in seven days.

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The Russell 2000 Index climbed to an all- time high and the Nasdaq Composite Index reached a level unseen since 2000 as an equities rally that started last week continued through one of the slowest trading days of the year.The Russell 2000 of small-cap companies gained 0.7...
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Friday, 26 December 2014 04:34 PM
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